I still remember the day I made my first sorority letter shirt. It was spring break of my freshman year, and I came home with a swatch of anchor fabric determined to turn it into a shirt. I turned to the woman whom I credit with all of my creative genes and asked for help. My mother’s sewing machine was even older than I was, and no matter how often she had said, “I don’t think I can make that,” somehow she always managed to make whatever crazy thing I had come up with. I’ve learned a lot of lessons since that first shirt (like the fact that I shouldn’t sew both sides of the shirt together if I actually want to wear it), and I’ve made several adjustments since then. I’ve learned the importance of interfacing to make the letters lay flat, and that at least three layers of fabric are necessary to keep the fabric from bunching up in my machine. I’ve discovered that stitch-witch is the greatest sewer’s helper, and that a little bit of starch before ironing makes wrinkled letters look like new. I learned the hard way that letter shirts shouldn’t be machine dried, because even if the shirts are pre-shrunk it doesn’t mean that the letter fabric won’t shrink. But perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned is that even when I don’t have any clean letter shirts to wear, I am always wearing letters.

Our letters are the gateway to everything we stand for. They are the lens through which we view our sisterhood. These letters are what our founders began with in 1873, when they decided to form their little club on that snowy Christmas Eve. Every good idea must be given a name, and this club was named Delta Gamma. Those Greek letters were not arbitrary. They were not randomly selected from the other 22 Greek letters. They are the initials of the motto that is at our core, the motto that is basis of our ritual and our way of life. After being a part of six initiations, I can probably recite the words in our ritual by heart. I know now more than ever what our letters symbolize. I know how important it is to live up to the honor of wearing them. And I know that no matter where I go, no matter what I do, our ritual will be forever marked on my heart.

Anna, Eva, and Mary charged the future generations of Delta Gammas with one mission: to do good. But they also asked something else of us. They asked for us to uphold a set of values, and to become the best versions of ourselves that we could possibly become. Each time we wear our letters, we are reminding ourselves of the promises we made on our own initiation day. We also are meant to show the world just what our ritual means to us, and what our letters have allowed us to become. I suppose I can’t speak for everyone, but I know my letters have given me the strength to go out into the world and follow my dreams, and the courage to stand up for others. My letters have bound me in honor to my fraternity and connected me to sisters bearing my letters around the world. My letters have encouraged me to find the joy that lies in each day, and to live life to the fullest.

I represent my letters in everything that I do. My letters have become as much a part of me as I have become a lifelong member of Delta Gamma. As a member of Delta Gamma, I know it is my duty to take care of those letters. It’s not an easy task, especially when so much media attention is directed at shaming Greek letters for mistakes made by a handful of members. But those letters must be built up and strengthened by the rest of its members. It is not an option, or a possibility, or merely an ideal. It is an obligation.

I hope that on this initiation weekend, the new members of Delta Gamma come to love their letters even more dearly than they already do, and that they honor their new letters not merely as a symbol that can be removed. I hope that they make a mark and become imprinted on their hearts. We have entrusted our letters to a new set of absolutely wonderful women. Wear them well, ladies. Wear them well.